Two Spud Speedway legends gain honor

10 years ago

For the first time in the history of Maine Vintage Racing Association, two Aroostook County racers are being inducted into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame. Rodney “Chink” Maynard of Presque Isle and Robert “Bobby” Alexander of Mars Hill, now residing in Ellsworth, were named as part of the seven-member Class of 2014 to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Augusta Civic Center in April.
According to Joe Chamberlain of Woodland, Maynard received the highest number of votes in every round of voting on a list of names which includes over 140 nominees from around the state. Chamberlain has been a member of the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame selection committee since its inception 11 years ago.
“This is the first year for nominees from Spud Speedway,” said Chamberlain. “We are just getting into the ’70s era of racing in Maine. I nominated three guys — Chink, Bobby and Mark Jones of Caribou. Two of the three made it in this year. There is no doubt that Jones will be inducted in the next couple years. In fact, it is rare that two people from the same track make it in the same year. I am amazed that two got in from our track.”
Maynard was thrilled and surprised when he heard of the honor.
“I could not believe I was voted into the Hall of Fame,” said Maynard. “I was just doing something I enjoyed doing.”
Maynard, now 75 years old, started racing at the race track when it was built in 1964.
“I signed my name as Chink so my wife (Germaine) would not know I was driving. After the fourth weekend, however, she kept asking ‘Who is this Chink Maynard?’ I had to come clean. She became my biggest fan, coming to every race until I got done.”
Maynard had over 100 wins for five different owners. Documented track championships in Spud’s top division were five. A lack of records in some of the years when the track was under different management may show even more championships.
One of Maynard’s first rides was one he shared with his younger brother Butch who was sponsored by Elky Woodman’s garage in Washburn.
“One day, the No. 23 car, a ’56 Chevy, won the feature with Butch driving, the mechanic’s race driven by Chink and the women’s race when driven by Lois Spooner,” according to Woodman, who resides in Washburn.
“I remember Chink coming from a feature race when he was driving the Jim England ’37 Ford coupe with a Corvette engine in it. The car was not handling very well, yet Chink man-handled it to the finish saying at the conclusion, ‘I have blisters on my hands clear up to the elbows.’”
Jones, who competed for many years against Maynard, said, “I am as fortunate as a guy can be to race with that guy. He was one of the guys a kid would look up to. I remember points battles where he and I would race door handle to door handle. He would lead one lap and me the next. He is very deserving of this honor.”
Maynard’s daughter, Ronnette Maynard Griffin of Presque Isle, was proud with the honor bestowed on her father.
“As a child growing up in Aroostook County, every summer weekend that I can remember was filled with the sounds of roaring engines and checkered flags. Those are the times I remember at Spud Speedway, where my dad drove stock car. I have wonderful memories of the drive in the family car over to Caribou, listening to my mom and dad talk about the race ahead. And on the drive home hearing them talk about the race and how the car handled and the reason he held back before making a move that gave him the win.”
Sixty-five year old Alexander grew up on the family farm in Mars Hill. In fact he met his future wife, Kristi, when she went to work on their farm.
Alexander credits his high school agriculture teacher, Whit Whitmore, with opening his eyes to opportunities that he would never have dared to dream. His love of racing was ignited when his high school’s Future Farmers of America chapter ventured to the Big E in West Springfield, Mass. A big race at the half-mile track there ignited the curiosity and desire to race stock cars, which he pursued when he came back to The County.
Whitmore is also credited with getting scholarships for his young student, helping him to attend the University of Maine at Orono where Alexander majored in agriculture business management. His 22-year racing career began by helping Mars Hill’s Eddie “The Red Baron” Gilman in 1968. His racing career continued until 1990. In 2012, he dusted off the racing helmet and raced his grandson Wyatt Alexander in a NELCAR race at Speedway 95, where his grandson beat him.
Chamberlain credited Alexander’s induction in 2013 with every track knowing about the Mars Hill native, his 100-plus race wins and his extraordinary car-building abilities.
“I liked Bobby and Kristi. [Bobby] was a very good driver. I think he was a fair driver and I am pleased he was named to the Hall of Fame,” said Mary Thibeau of Fort Fairfield, wife of the late Spud Speedway owner Barry Thibeau.
Jennifer Dicker Trombley of Presque Isle, who attended races as a teenager, recalls idolizing Alexander.
“He was our Spud Speedway childhood hero. No one was any cooler than Bobby Alexander,” Trombley said. “I am obviously very happy for his success and being selected. It brings back fond memories of going to Spud Speedway every Saturday night to cheer on our beloved No. 96 car.”
“He was a racer’s racer,” recounted Jones. “He was an all-around racer who worked on the cars. Bobby would spend many late nights working on race cars and innovating. When he was running well, he was hard to beat.”
Alexander admitted being surprised and “very honored” with the nomination and upcoming induction.
“I never won any track championships,” said Alexander. “I always ran to win and sometimes that led to me taking chances that took me out of the race. I am in awe of being named to the Hall of Fame — totally surprised and very honored.”
Fellow inductee Maynard called Alexander “a hard working young man who was a generous old-fashioned racer.”
“It goes a long way to say that this little track produced names like Chink Maynard, Bobby Alexander, Kurt Thibeau, Austin Theriault and others,” said current Spud Speedway owner Troy Haney. “In addition to the recognition that Maynard and Alexander will receive in April, our track will be giving them special recognition as part of our 50th anniversary celebration next season.”
Tickets to the induction ceremony may be purchased at the website www.mainevintageracecars.com for $40 per person.